BridgingSpace: Championing Online Mental Healthcare in Nigeria
By Abbas Badmus

TECHDIGEST – Nigeria’s first online mental health startup, BridgingSpace has demonstrated its commitment to transforming the health care system by providing necessary support to persons suffering from mental health related issues such as depression, anxiety and others.

The e-health startup will serve as an effective platform for individuals who have mental health related issues by helping to break stereotypes and stigma related circumstances towards promoting healthy communities.

Wikipedia defines E-health (Digital health) as the convergence of digital technologies with health, healthcare, living and society to enhance the efficiency of healthcare delivery through hardware and software solutions and services.

E-Health startup is a tech firm that aims to provide some sort of technological product or resource to the medical market, typically targeting medical practitioners, patients, health insurance providers or corporate organisations.

These e-health startups are scattered over different areas and making impact in their own little ways. They include maternal and child health, Electronic Health Records (HER), health insurance, telemedicine, pharmaceuticals, services, content and information.

Nigeria’s health tech startup industry has been steadily growing over the years. E-health is helping in improving the quality of life, reducing the cost of healthcare, and making healthcare efficient and easily accessible.

A few examples of health tech startup in Nigeria are Lifebank, Mobidoc, Meditell, Mamalette, Omomi, Ubenwa, Helpmum, DrugStoc, Mymedicines.com, Wella Health, and Doctoora

BridgingSpace is coming into Nigeria’s health tech space with a unique focus on addressing the mental health crisis ravaging the populace, especially, under the current climate of global economic and social uncertainties, no thanks to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The prevalence of mental health issues in Nigeria shows that an increasing number of people are vulnerable to emotional distress and other mood disorders at some time in their life.

The Chief Executive Officer of BridgingSpace, Edet Ekpenyong while speaking to Techdigest identified the youth as the demographic with the highest cases of depression and anxiety due to factors such as economic hardship, cultural biases, and other social pressures, adding that one out of four Nigerians are victims.

He noted that many of these youths do not seek professional help because of the stigma, discrimination and complicated processes needed to access therapy.

In recognition of this fact, Ekpenyong advises that families, peer groups and the public should focus attention on the psychosocial health of their community by encouraging them to speak out about mental health challenges they are experiencing in schools, the work place or among their peers.

To achieve this objective, he assured that the startup has put in place effective channels for communication, partnerships and collaborations with support groups, for profit and nonprofit organizations to collectively address the scourge of mental health issues affecting people.

According to him, BridgingSpace is prepared to deploy all necessary strategies including tours of tertiary institutions to raise awareness on sound mental health as a critical but neglected component of health in its entirety towards the achievement of ‘health for all goals’.

Ekpenyong added that “BridgingSpace will serve as a premier source for mental healthcare solutions while using data to positively influence healthy outcomes for communities around the world”.

However, the main obstacles confronting e-Health startup are lack of access to funding, absence of government in terms of political will, regulatory frameworks and policies.

Another barrier is adoption. How many people are using these software? How many people have downloaded the apps? How many actually use these apps?

While these factors have continued to undermine the growth and prosperity of health tech companies, I believe that the current slow adoption of e-health technologies will improve as people learn to appreciate and embrace the benefits offered by emerging e-health technology like the BridgingSpace application.

All levels of government need to recognize and prioritise the importance of adequate mental healthcare by making effective treatment, adequate facilities and resources available to encourage health tech companies contribute to overall quality healthcare delivery.

In addition, government should support these e-health startups with massive educational campaigns to create needed awareness to help the understand mental illnesses and the benefits of e-health care platforms.

Yes, I am optimistic that the Nigerian health tech space has come to stay and will make more visible impact in no distant time. With increased mobile penetration and internet access, adoption of e-health technologies/platforms will pick up, and our dream will metamorphose into practical reality.

Abbas Badmus is a staff writer with TechDigest.ng [email protected]

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